NYT’s Jim Brosnan Obit Lacks Heinz-Sight

Jim Brosnan, a baseball-hurler-turned-word-twirler, died last week, as the New York Times noted yesterday. From the estimable Bruce Weber’s obit:

Jim Brosnan, Who Threw Literature a Curve, Dies at 84

Jim Brosnan, who achieved modest baseball success as a relief pitcher but gained greater fame and consequence in the game by writing about it, died on June 29 in Park Ridge, Ill. He was 84.

The cause was an infection he developed while recovering from 04brosnan-master675a stroke, his son, Timothy, said.

In 1959, Brosnan, who played nine years in the major leagues, kept a diary of his experience as a pitcher, first with the St. Louis Cardinals and later, after a trade, with the Cincinnati Reds. Published the next year as “The Long Season,” it was a new kind of sportswriting — candid, shrewd and highly literate, more interested in presenting the day-to-day lives and the actual personalities of the men who played the game than in maintaining the fiction of ballplayers as all-American heroes and role models.

That’s all well-deserved and good, but then Weber lets Jonathan Yardley get away with this quote:

“At the dawn of the 1960s the literature of baseball was paltry,” the critic Jonathan Yardley wrote in The Washington Post in 2004. “Some good fiction had been inspired by the game, notably Ring Lardner’s ‘You Know Me Al’ and Bernard Malamud’s ‘The Natural,’ but nonfiction was little more than breathless sports-page reportage: hagiographic biographies of stars written for adolescents (‘Lou Gehrig: Boy of the Sandlots’), as-told-to quickies (‘Player-Manager’ by Lou Boudreau) and once-over-lightly histories of the game (‘The Baseball Story’ by Fred Lieb).

“Then one book changed everything: ‘The Long Season’ by a little-known relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds named Jim Brosnan.”

Except Yardley completely ignores the contributions to sportswriting of the great W.C. Heinz, whose work went way beyond “hagiographic biographies of stars written for adolescents . . . and once-over-lightly histories of the game.”

Heinz went deep, as his 2008 Times obituary noted:

W. C. Heinz, 93, Writing Craftsman, Dies

W. C. Heinz, the sports columnist, war correspondent, magazine writer and novelist who was considered one of the finest 28heinz.190journalistic stylists of his era, died Wednesday in Bennington, Vt. He was 93 . . .

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Mr. Heinz was among America’s foremost sports journalists, but his writing ranged beyond the sporting world. His contemporaries included Red Smith, A. J. Liebling, John Lardner, Grantland Rice and Jimmy Cannon. A colleague at The New York Sun, Frank Graham, was quoted in a Sports Illustrated profile of Mr. Heinz as having said, “At his best, he’s better than any of us.”

Just read Heinz’s devastating Death of a Racehorse from 1949 to know that Yardley’s assessment is eight yards of eyewash.

Not to mention Heinz’s 1958 novel The Professional, which Ernest Hemingway called the only good novel about boxing he had ever read.  Or go to your local public library, take out Once They Heard the Cheers, and read Heinz’s heartbreaking profile of Floyd Patterson.

Jonathan Yardley doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Weird Religious Ads in the New York Times (II)

On Friday the hardlypious staff noted the half-page ad that an outfit dauntingly called The Church of Almighty God ran in the New York Times.

Yesterday the Almighties doubled down with a full-page ad in the Times.


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Like the graphic, it’s all just a blur to us, no offense to the Almighties. But presumably college credits are available if you read the whole thing.

No guarantee they’re transferable, though.

God bless.

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Weird Religious Ads in the New York Times

First in a definite series

As dedicated readers of the New York Times will have noticed, all kinds of fringe religionistas run ads in the old Grey Lady on a regular basis. The hardlyworking staff has been remiss in failing to chronicle them in the past, but we’re prepared to rectify that, starting now.

So . . . in yesterday’s Times we encountered this on page A7:


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All you really need to know:


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But if you want more, go here.

God bless.

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Tales from the New York Times Subscription Desk

First in a possible series

As the hardmoving staff recently noted, the Missus and I are decamping from our happy home of 28 years and trundling back to the lovely courtyard building whence we came.

(Campaign Outsider Sidebar: Hey! America! Not to get technical about it, but whence means from where. So it follows that “from whence” is redundant at best, ridiculous at worst. Just FYI.)

And so we’ve been filing Change of Address forms as fast as we can.

All was going nicely until we came to our newspaper home delivery subscriptions. Boston Globe, check. Boston Herald, check. Wall Street Journal, check.

New York Times? Checkmate.

The Times subscriptionista told us we needed to cancel the day before we moved and re-subscribe the next day. Otherwise, he said, “you might get a New York Times delivered to both addresses.”

As Mona Lisa Vito might say:

Oh my God, what a fucking nightmare!

For a bunch of smart people, the Timesniks are real idiots.

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Correction o’ the Day (Bad News for Oysters Edition)

From Wednesday’s New York Times Corrections:


An article in some editions on Thursday about the approval of a $511 million loan to build a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge misstated the portion of the loan that could be spent on oyster bed restoration. It is $1.2 million, not $2.1 million.

Damn! And all this time we thought the oysters were sittin’ pretty.

Campaign Outsider Bonus

Best oyster quote ever (about tabloid publisher Sidney Kidd):

“The world’s his oyster with an R in every month.”

- C.K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story.

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New MBTA Operator Jumps the (Fast) Track

It’s been nothing like a smooth ride for Keolis Commuter Services, which has just replaced the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. as the operator of local public transit systems.

First there was the factory-installed Boston race rumpus, in which local black ministers tried to extort $105,000 from Keolis (tip o’ the pixel to the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker) to “promote diversity in running the city’s commuter rail system.”

Keolis pretty much said, Yeah – promote this.

Regardless, Keolis tried to wipe the slate clean with this ad in Tuesday’s Globe under the headline “All Aboard Framingham! All Aboard Rockport! All Aboard Stoughton! Welcome Aboard Boston!”


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Then came this story in Wednesday’s Globe:

Seafood truck crash mars Keolis’s 1st day at helm

It was not the debut Keolis Commuter Services officials had hoped for: Early Tuesday, a commercial truck hauling thousands of pounds of seafood crashed into a Westwood railroad overpass, starting a fire and shuttering both directions of morning service on the Franklin commuter rail line for two hours.

Yet MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott took an optimistic tone at a Tuesday morning press conference on Keolis’s first day running the commuter rail system.

“With the exception of the lobster truck,” Scott said, “everything has been going very, very smoothly.”

Uh-huh. Other than that, Ms. Scott, how was the play?

(Fun fact to know and tell: The Globe’s headline on the web failed to mention its advertising partner Keolis.)

Back to Keolis and its tagline Thinking Like a Passenger. The hardguessing staff believes passengers are thinking, Huh?

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Head-Scratching Ad o’ the Day (California Chrome Edition)

From our 25 Days Late, $50,000 Dollars Short desk

Two years ago Skechers USA got caught shortchanging consumers with deceptive advertising.

From a 2012 Federal Trade Commission press release:

Skechers Will Pay $40 Million to Settle FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers with Ads for “Toning Shoes”

Consumers Who Bought Shape-ups, Other Toning Shoes Will Be Eligible for Refunds

The Federal Trade Commission announced that Skechers USA, ssu-refundInc. has agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges that the company deceived consumers by making unfounded claims that Shape-ups would help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.

Besides Shape-ups, Skechers also made deceptive claims about its Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes, the FTC alleged.

One week ago Skechers was accused of shortchanging its workers. From the Huffington Post’s Peter Dreier:

Footwear Giant Skechers Can Run, but It Can’t Hide From Abusive Labor Practices


Skechers, one of America’s largest footwear companies, can run, but it can’t hide.

A report released Wednesday by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), “Out of Step: How Skechers Hurts Its California Supply Chain Workers,” exposes the company’s troublesome labor practices. It is not a pretty sight.

The report reveals the mistreatment of the workers who deliver Skechers’ products — primarily shoes, apparel and luggage — from ports to warehouses to retail stores around the country and around the world. In doing so, “Out of Step” also exposes the huge gap between Skechers’ carefully crafted image as a hip retailer, which has led it to become a $1.8-billion corporation, and the reality of a company for whom truck drivers and warehouse workers labor under harsh, stressful, and exploitative conditions.

And one day ago Skechers admitted shortchanging New York Times readers in this strange half-page-ad tribute to Double Crown winner California Chrome (Skechers signed a sponsorship deal with the thoroughbred’s owners right before the third leg of the Triple Crown):


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First off, the Belmont Stakes (where California Chrome finished a disappointing fourth) was almost four weeks ago.

Beyond that, shouldn’t Skechers have taken out a 2/3-page ad in the Times?

Weird all the way around the course, eh?

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So Long to My Desk of 37 Years

Well the Missus and I are moving to a new place and, say, it’s swell.

It’s also smaller and more, er, refined than our current place.

So I decided my desk has to go.

Back story: In 1977, I shared a house on Route 9 in Chestnut Hill across from the Star Market with my high-school pal Howie Cusack and Bob McNutt, who I didn’t really know at all. Eventually McNutt left – and left behind a very nice dresser and a very . . . well, a desk. Howie took the former; I took the latter.

And kept it ever since.

It’s a plain old walnut desk, as solid as the day is long.



Courtesy: The Missus


Note the deep drawer lower right, where Philip Marlowe would have kept a bottle of whatever he decided to get outside of when things went bad.

Me, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words on this desk, often after getting outside of one thing or another myself.

And these are the last words I’m writing on it:

Ave atque vale, old walnut desk.

All due respect to Howie, I got the better of the deal.

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The Redemption Unit

Inspired by our pal Dan Kennedy, who just published his first piece at Medium, the copycatting staff has just publish its first piece there.


The Redemption Unit

Adventures in the Social (In)Security Meltdown of 1975


I got my job at the Social Security Administration the same day I got caught shoplifting. It was 1975 and I was working at the Deaconess Hospital in Boston as an X-ray messenger, one in my series of “smartest” jobs — as in “you’re the smartest guy who’s ever packed orders at this warehouse” or “you’re the smartest guy who’s ever parked cars in this outdoor lot” or “you’re the smartest guy who’s ever ferried patients down to the X-ray department.”

That’s what a Jesuit education will do for you.

Smartest or not, I still had to wear the sky-blue polyester V-neck shirt with patch pockets issued to all the hospital’s X-ray messengers. The patch pockets were what got me in trouble. You could easily palm something (say, a cinnamon donut in the Deaconess cafeteria), stick your hands in the sky-blue polyester pockets, and go your merry way. Ditto for a pack of razor blades in the nearby Harvard Medical Coop.

Except my merry way was blocked that day by a Coop security guard. Busted, I sat in a bare room at the back of the store and calculated the odds. If I just kept quiet and let retail justice take its course, I figured, I could probably minimize the consequences.

Sure enough, the Chief of Security (see our ad in Sunday’s classified section) told me that the incident would go on my Harvard Coop permanent record, and that my trade was no longer welcome there or at any other Coop, of which there was one.

I meandered, bladeless, back to the hospital. There was a phone message waiting: The Social Security Administration wanted me to be a claims representative in its Boston District Office. I called back and said yes.

It just gets weirder from there.

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Why We’re Confused About Social Media and Brand Marketing

Because we’re all about you splendid readers, the hardworking staff is working hard to stay on top of marketing trends in social media networks.

But we have to admit our head kind of exploded when we read yesterday’s Mediabistro’s Morning Media Newsfeed and saw these two stories.

From Richard Dumas’ piece in SocialTimes:

Why Brands Don’t Respond on Social Media

If you’ve ever used social media to ask a question, look for information or vent your frustration about a product or service, brandssocialmediayou may have wondered why your post was met with silence. Maybe another consumer responded with a suggestion, but where was the brand that was the subject of your ire? Why didn’t they reach out to help solve your problem? Given that so many people now use social media to discuss products and services, why aren’t brands tripping over themselves to offer help?

Companies clearly recognize the marketing opportunity that social media provides, yet most seem to be focused on relentlessly posting messages touting the virtues of their products, while very few have mastered the art of responding during the moments that matter most to consumers.

Then, from Patrick Coffee’s piece in PRNewser:

25 Brands Making the Most of Twitter’s New GIF Feature

Last week the nerds at TechCrunch told us that the new Twitter GIFs aren’t really GIFs at all–they’re just tiny mp4s on loop with no sound.

Twitter-GifThat’s OK, though. We welcome any excuse to search for funny videos on the Internets, especially when they’re part of Twitter’s latest attempt to make money on ads that will not annoy those jonesing for breaking news and trending jokes.

Here, then, are some of the brands we’ve noticed using this newest, shiniest thing . . .

Then there’s this Jeff Elder piece from the Wall Street Journal:

Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype

Companies Refine Strategies to Stress Quality Over Quantity of Fans

In May 2013, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. bought ads to promote its brand page on Facebook. After a few days, unhappy executives halted the campaign—but not because they weren’t gaining enough fans. Rather, they were gaining too many, too fast

“We were fearful our engagement and connection with our community was dropping” as the fan base grew, says Allison Sitch, Ritz-Carlton’s vice president of global public relations.

Today, the hotel operator has about 498,000 Facebook fans; some rivals have several times as many. Rather than try to keep pace, Ritz-Carlton spends time analyzing its social-media conversations, to see what guests like and don’t like. It also reaches out to people who have never stayed at its hotels and express concern about the cost.

Ritz-Carlton illustrates a shift in corporate social-media strategies . . .

Excellent WSJ chart:


You can see why our head is spinning, yes?

Talk among yourselves. On social media, if possible . . .

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